Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Education Program

My next idea for an income generator is an educational program. What I'm talking about specifically is hosting classes on a variety of topics, in a variety of ways for a reasonable fee.

Is this idea unique to me? Not at all. The inspiration for my education program comes from another small farmer, Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm, who's blog I read regularly. I first heard about her on The Survival Podcast and I've been following her ever since. I find her very inspirational. Please check her out if you get a chance. She hosts a variety of classes that are anything from just a few hours to multi-day events. She offers season passes to all her classes and even does an annual event that includes multiple classes, teachers and products from other local farms called Antlerstock.

So, I think I have a lot of skills that could be taught to others in half day, full day and multi-day classes.

  • Guitar camp (in full Jenna style of "stop talking about getting a guitar and do it all ready"), go home knowing how to play a full song. It would include the option of buying a beginner guitar from me that I've personally set up before the class with all the little accessories needed to get started.
  • Drums camp, same idea as the guitar class but starting out with just a practice pad and learning basic snare technique.
  • Mandolin camp, pretty much just like the guitar class.
  • Bass camp, could be integrated into the guitar class or as a class on it's own.
  • Spoon Carving, where we could do a whole spoon from log to finish. With the option of paying for all the tools and having them ready for you at the time of the class and ready to take home.
  • Rope work, learn how to tie knots, spice, back splices and seizing, go home with a beautiful custom lead rope or dog leash.
  • Building a worm bin. All tools and supplies provided to take home your very own worm bin and start vermicomposting.
  • Sour dough bread class, hands on baking with either you own starter or take home some of mine and a fresh loaf of bread.
  • Dog training, bring your dog and learn the skills to teach your dog to be a more integrated part of your family.
  • Introduction to brewing, take the fear out of making your first batch of beer or cider and take home your work to finish at home.
  • Hemp necklace, make something fun and decorative for yourself, someone one you love, or someone you like, even just if it's a little bit.
  • Up your grilling game by learning a variety of techniques to up your grilling game, lunch included of course.
  • Archery, always wanted to learn but don't know where to start? Did it as a kid and want to try again? Spend a fun day slinging arrows. Option to go home with your very own archery gear.
These are just the classes I think I can teach tomorrow with just the supplies needed for the projects. Actually having the land and some infrastructure opens up many more opportunities.

Jenna offers season passes that get you into all her classes at a discount. I like that idea and I also had the idea of offering credits at a discount and giving each class a credit value so people that want to take multiple classes can save some money if they aren't interested in a season pass.

I'd love to hear what you think about these and if you think you'd ever be interested in taking one, I'd just like to know to gauge reaction not so I can spam you with info.

Friday, March 13, 2015


This post is a continuation of the series "Dreaming Big", If things don't make sense you might want to read that article first.
Why start with a nursery?
  • It makes effective use of the land right from the start. The last thing I want is for the land to sit idle.
  • It's a low cost business to get started. Yes, you can buy expensive equipment but that's more as the business scales larger. For a start, there are very few things needed to be successful. Especially if I don't take on debt to get the land.
  • The labor is mostly bench work to start, meaning I could likely do my grafts, rooting, sprouting, etc. during the week and take them to the land on the weekends and by making  effective use of passive watering systems I shouldn't have to worry about babysitting when I'm not on site.
  • Since I will be commuting to the land anyway, it might be possible to deliver plants personally without additional fuel costs.
  • It is a high demand business with a very wide market. I won't have to develop the market from scratch like I will with some things.
  • I can sell wholesale as well as direct without tons of legal hassle. This means that even if I don't get a premium price for wholesale, I can at least keep income coming in while I develop a direct market.
  • Trees can be potted and sold off site at farmers markets if time allows.
  • It's easy for people to support the farm by buying something local that you are likely going to buy anyway; and if you buy direct you might get it for around the same price you would pay anyway.
  • For people interested in helping with farm work, say an intern, the chores involved in a nursery are pretty strait forward for people to do without requiring a lot of training or prior skill. That means that no matter how many higher skill businesses we add, we always have a good place to put people that will actually help the farm; and gives them a feeling of being successful instead of throwing them in over their head and having them not enjoy the experience.
I've done a lot of thinking about what would be the best first business to build the backbone of 500 Year Farm on and I can't think of anything that would be a better fit than a nursery.

Much of my information on running a nursery comes from Grant Schultz from Varsaland and I encourage you to check up on his work. He is a fantastic resource.